Bound, bone straight.
Shackles finally soften and fall at my feet, with strands soon to follow.
Rivers of hairitage lap at my back, woven from intermittent, perennial,
and ephemeral streams; with mouths sealed in buckets of boiling runoff.
I yearn for the cool of the ocean.
Through the wire, sweat beads from a muscle’s flex as undulations unravel
beneath the flats of fingers. I send waves crashing like fourth walls;
raining down Mother Nature’s liquids, oils and creams, as She turns winds to water,
clouds to coconut and sunshine to shea.
Weather me undone. Weather me, Oshun.
Weather me, ocean born of braun, not brush;
born of care, not comb; born of serenity, not sulfate.
Ocean as wide as you are deep. As tall as you are vast.
For volume begets volume, and this Sunday is loud and long:
– words by Emma Hanson
29 November, 12:13pm.
Sunny and I haven’t really been in touch for a week. For a brief moment on Friday, we decided to switch things up with a slick top bun but now I’m dealing with the repercussions of that decision. Yes, Sunny is my afro and she and I, well we are like best friends, and while I love her dearly, our relationship is not devoid of ups and downs.
I remember growing up, I dreaded Sundays. I just knew at some point in the day my braids from the week before will be taken down, I’d have to endure the excruciating detangling process and just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I’d teeter on the precipice of drowning each time the bowl of water was emptied over my sudsy head to rinse it of all debris. I understand now why my mother likely dreaded this process even more than I did; she’d have to wrestle a boney tot into tubs and onto cushions, trying to make the process as pain-free as she could but without fail, I’d cry and wail and protest till the final twist was complete. It’s little wonder that as my hair got thicker and longer, her despair only grew. How in the world would she manage Sunny and I?!
Sunny and I wouldn’t reconnect until the first year of University when I couldn’t take another 8-week run of navigating two textures only to be chemically assaulted by a product I purchased with my own money. The YouTube videos kicked in, selling me dreams of waist length hair in a matter of weeks and I lapped it all up like a thirsty puppy. Sunny and I were in our prime! Shea butter mixes and 8-hour Sundays were spent deep conditioning, twisting, stretching, and sealing. Other women would ask me how I had time to do all of it or how I always seemed to know how to work Sunny so she perfectly illuminated my features. You see, for me it wasn’t a question of “how”, it was a question of “how much”. How much time could I spend nurturing her towards this arbitrary length goal. How much deeper could I love myself by learning to love her. How much time was I willing to invest in building a foundation with her that I could then pass on to friends and future generations?
Sundays are not nearly as painful as they once were but they are also not as painstaking. I still love Sunny and always will but now, it’s a more seasoned love. A slow burn kind of love. I keep her protected all week and let her roam free on the weekends. Some weeks she loves me back with hydrated curls and perfect twistouts. Some weeks she has a bit of an attitude and refuses to do anything I ask her to. On Sundays, Sundays when I whip out the conditioner and a familiar series, it’s like we’re old friends catching up. My fingers weave effortlessly through her dense curls and coils, tucking and rolling her into safety for the week ahead. We might hit a few snags along the way but Sundays are for us. 29 November, 2:21pm, my silk wrap is on, time to lay her down for the week ahead.
– words by Enang Ukoh
This time last year I had all but crawled to the finish line of my annual flight home.
Bone-tired and sick of the city, I kept repeating to myself, You just have to make it home When I touch down in Houston, my mom, aunty, and grandmother are waiting for me. Grandma sweeps me into her arms, “Ah, Omo , welcome!”, and lifts me off my feet. Behind me, mom tisks at my featherweight frame suspended in the air by my then, sturdy grandma.
At home, under the weight of mom’s capable hands she asks me, “My Baby, how’re you doing?” I close my eyes, rest my head against her thigh to follow the scratch of her comb against my scalp, and lie, “I’m ok mom”. My back vibrates with the sound of her voice as her cool fingertips press oils into my crown. Brittle and worn thin, my hair does not lie. She is unyielding in her needs–a lesson I have yet to learn. Everyday since March, I have woken up, made my way to the same floor length window and asked:
what do I do with all these splitting ends?
The days don’t pass so much as they swipe past; I count the months by the shedding that time brings. When Grandma’s brain stutters, her voice dips baritone to pronounce home, and my chest tightens in recognition. One thousand, five hundred and thirty miles away, we comb our hair together and smile at our tinny reflections. The same month I gained new life, she quit hers. I press the buzz of metal to my head to cleave my cloud of hair, and expose her very own cheekbones. Ten days later, Grandma, you appear to me in gleaming pink only to ask, “How are you doing, dear?”
I’m ok, I’m ok.
– words by Oyin Olalekan